Headline Numbers: The year in vital statistics

3D numbers Image copyright Thinkstock

Which numbers do you think tell the story of 2014? Let's have a look at some of the contenders.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that there were 7.1 million crimes committed against households and adults for the year to June, which was the lowest level since the survey began in 1981.

BBC economic editor Robert Peston describes himself as being slightly obsessed with the UK's very big current account deficit, which is the gap between the income paid to and received from the rest of the world.

The current account deficit has been well above 5% of GDP for 15 months, which is worse than it's been than at any time since records were first properly collected in the early 1950s.

Some of the most eye-catching figures come from the jobs market. We don't have figures for the whole year yet - we won't get those until February - so the most recent release suggests that at the end of October there were 455,000 fewer people unemployed than there had been a year before.

Now, there are issues around the amounts that the newly-employed people are being paid and whether self-employment is flattering these figures, but by any standards that is a big fall in unemployment.

For the economy as a whole, there was a sting in the tail towards the end of December from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). We had previously thought that gross domestic product (GDP) had grown by 3% in the year to the end of September, but that was revised down to 2.6%. "Still quite a robust growth picture but not quite as robust as the previous figures suggested," said ONS chief economist Joe Grice.

And if you're wondering why that's not making everyone feel better, it also turned out that both GDP per head and disposable income per head are still considerably below the level they were at the start of 2008 before the financial crisis.

Also, that robust growth did not have as big an effect as expected on the government's finances. In the first 11 months of the year the government borrowed £86.6bn taking its total debt to £1.46tn.

While we're on the big numbers, 2014 saw some stonkers, including 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (that's 9.2 quintillion), which is the number of times that YouTube users can watch Psy's Gangnam Style (or any other video) without causing problems for its updated counter software.

I suggested this was the biggest number the BBC News website had reported, but I am grateful to David Groves on Twitter who pointed me towards this story from 2011, which reports that the number of IP addresses made available by the new system will be 34 undecillion - an undecillion being 1 followed by 36 zeroes.

Have we got to the point where the numbers are so meaninglessly big that we might as well lapse into the fictional gazillion or bajillion? That's one to think about as you bring in the new year, and perhaps Headline Numbers will bring you a duodecillion in 2015.

But if you're looking for a really big number it is hard to see past the turnout for the referendum on Scottish independence, which was an almost unprecedented 84.6%.

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